Adopt best-of-breed methodology for enterprise automation

Adopt best-of-breed methodology for enterprise automation

Harry Barschdorf

By Harry Barschdorf

Special to GCN

Policy changes at the General Services Administration and the Sept. 30 expiration of the Financial Management Systems Software Schedule give rise to a new approach to enterprise financial management software procurement. Along with it has come a debate over which approach to enterprise automation is best for government'enterprise resource planning or best-of-breed.

The approach government agencies choose will affect how successful it is in fulfilling its mission. For government, best-of-breed offers distinct advantages.

Bidding method

GSA's new procurement process ends the practice of open bidding for enterprise financial management software. Agencies were once required to advertise project requirements and invite bids from all certified vendors. Now they are able to choose which vendors to approach.

Acting as resources for helping government buyers decide which products and services best meet their needs will be systems integrators, enterprise software developers and other information technology service companies. But it is important to understand all the options available.

The best-of-breed approach involves integrating different enterprise software applications in an open environment based on the customer's unique requirements. For instance, an agency would embrace the best-of-breed method when choosing to implement different enterprise software applications for financial management, human resources, procurement and other related administrative systems.

This approach enables the agency to select the applications with the greatest vertical depth'that is, the richest application functionality that meets government-specific needs'and integrate those applications under an agencywide enterprise architecture.

In contrast, the ERP approach takes a horizontal view of the federal enterprise by offering agencies a broad suite of administrative application software originally developed to support large-scale private sector organizations. These applications lack the necessary vertical depth to address the complex financial and related administrative processing requirements unique to government.

The agency implementing ERP is then faced with two difficult and costly options: investing in application software enhancements to meet basic processing needs, or undertaking organization and business processing re-engineering to accommodate the ERP software capabilities.

A best-of-breed enterprise stance comprised of open, scalable systems developed specifically for government provides an agency with vertical depth in critical administrative areas.

It implements the best technology for each business function, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

When considering ERP vs. best-of-breed, it is also important to understand the distinct difference between best business practices and best business software. It can be argued that applying best business practices to government has a positive impact. The new procurement process for financial management enterprise software creates a more commercial atmosphere designed to increase competition and service to government agencies.

American Management Systems Inc. sells software that is used in 50 government agencies, and it is a strong proponent of best business practices in government.

Sixty percent of AMS' business is in the commercial sector, and we apply the same philosophy of achieving greater efficiency through the use of enterprise technologies in government engagements.

But it is also important to recognize that government needs software designed to meet the specific needs of the public sector. The business of government works differently than corporate America.

It is essential to understand these differences in enterprise automation for government. The best-of-breed approach to enterprise software is the method I believe will prove to work best for government.

Harry Barschdorf is a vice president with American Management Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va. He can be reached at harry_barschdorf@amsinc.com.

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